Gelsey Kirkland
Overview
 
Gelsey Kirkland is an American ballerina
Ballerina
A ballerina is a title used to describe a principal female professional ballet dancer in a large company; the male equivalent to this title is danseur or ballerino...

. Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet is a ballet company founded in 1948 by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Leon Barzin was the company's first music director. Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are considered the founding choreographers of the company...

 in 1968 at age fifteen, at the invitation of George Balanchine
George Balanchine
George Balanchine , born Giorgi Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to a Georgian father and a Russian mother, was one of the 20th century's most famous choreographers, a developer of ballet in the United States, co-founder and balletmaster of New York City Ballet...

. She was promoted to soloist in 1969 and principal in 1972. She went on to create leading roles in many of the great twentieth century ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins was an American theater producer, director, and choreographer known primarily for Broadway Theater and Ballet/Dance, but who also occasionally directed films and directed/produced for television. His work has included everything from classical ballet to contemporary musical theater...

, and Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor was an English ballet choreographer, teacher and dancer.-Biography:Tudor, born William Cook, discovered dance accidentally. He began dancing professionally with Marie Rambert in 1928, becoming general assistant for her Ballet Club the next year...

 including Balanchine's revival of The Firebird
The Firebird
The Firebird is a 1910 ballet created by the composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor....

, Robbins' Goldberg Variations
Goldberg Variations
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

, and Tudor's The Leaves are Fading.

She is perhaps most famous to the general public for dancing the role of "Clara" in Baryshnikov's 1977 televised production of The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

.
Encyclopedia
Gelsey Kirkland is an American ballerina
Ballerina
A ballerina is a title used to describe a principal female professional ballet dancer in a large company; the male equivalent to this title is danseur or ballerino...

. Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet is a ballet company founded in 1948 by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Leon Barzin was the company's first music director. Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are considered the founding choreographers of the company...

 in 1968 at age fifteen, at the invitation of George Balanchine
George Balanchine
George Balanchine , born Giorgi Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to a Georgian father and a Russian mother, was one of the 20th century's most famous choreographers, a developer of ballet in the United States, co-founder and balletmaster of New York City Ballet...

. She was promoted to soloist in 1969 and principal in 1972. She went on to create leading roles in many of the great twentieth century ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins was an American theater producer, director, and choreographer known primarily for Broadway Theater and Ballet/Dance, but who also occasionally directed films and directed/produced for television. His work has included everything from classical ballet to contemporary musical theater...

, and Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor was an English ballet choreographer, teacher and dancer.-Biography:Tudor, born William Cook, discovered dance accidentally. He began dancing professionally with Marie Rambert in 1928, becoming general assistant for her Ballet Club the next year...

 including Balanchine's revival of The Firebird
The Firebird
The Firebird is a 1910 ballet created by the composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor....

, Robbins' Goldberg Variations
Goldberg Variations
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

, and Tudor's The Leaves are Fading.

She is perhaps most famous to the general public for dancing the role of "Clara" in Baryshnikov's 1977 televised production of The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

. She left the ABT in 1984.

Books

In 1986, Kirkland, with then-husband Greg Lawrence, published Dancing on My Grave, a memoir chronicling her artistic transformation from Balanchine's "baby ballerina" to a mature dramatic artist. The book described her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction. Her second autobiography, 1990's The Shape Of Love, dealt with her move to England to dance with the Royal Ballet, her attempts to get a fresh start with her first husband, and her return to American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre , based in New York City, was one of the foremost ballet companies of the 20th century. It continues as a leading dance company in the world today...

 with a clean slate and a fresh outlook on life itself.

Current career

She currently lives in New York, with her second husband, choreographer and teacher, Michael Chernov, who was also with ABT. In 2006, she was awarded the Dance Magazine
Dance Magazine
Dance Magazine is an "influential" American trade publication for dance, currently published by the Macfadden Communications Group. It was first published in June 1927 as The American Dancer. William Como was its editor-in-chief from 1970 to his death in 1989. Wendy Perron became its editor-in...

 Award. (For years, they lived in Australia.)

She is currently teaching at STEPS on Broadway, and has recently choreographed (with Chernov and ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie
Kevin McKenzie
Kevin Alexander McKenzie is a South African first-class cricketer whose career with Transvaal lasted from his first season in 1966/67 to the final one in 1986/87....

) a new production of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, in which, after a more than twenty years absence from the stage, she danced the role of "Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy". She is director of Joffrey Ballet School's classical ballet program. In 2010, Ms. Kirkland and Mr Chernov established the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet (GKACB), where they serve as co-Artistic Directors.

Trivia

  • Dear friend of Anthony Dowell
    Anthony Dowell
    Sir Anthony James Dowell, CBE is a retired English ballet dancer and former Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet. He studied at the Hampshire School and The Royal Ballet Schools, before joining the Royal Ballet in 1961...

    .
  • She appeared as guest artist with the Royal Ballet 1980-86.
  • Danced with the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov
    Mikhail Baryshnikov
    Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov is a Soviet and American dancer, choreographer, and actor, often cited alongside Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century. After a promising start in the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, he defected to Canada in 1974...

    , Peter Martins
    Peter Martins
    Peter Martins is a Danish ballet dancer and choreographer. Martins was named man of the year by Danish American Society, 1980...

    , Edward Villella
    Edward Villella
    Edward Villella is an American ballet dancer and choreographer, frequently cited as America's most celebrated male dancer at the time....

    , Anthony Dowell
    Anthony Dowell
    Sir Anthony James Dowell, CBE is a retired English ballet dancer and former Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet. He studied at the Hampshire School and The Royal Ballet Schools, before joining the Royal Ballet in 1961...

    , Stephen Jeffries, Patrick Bissell
    Patrick Bissell
    Walter Patrick Bissell was an American ballet dancer. He was a leading principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater...

     and Peter Schafuss.
  • Her father was Jack Kirkland
    Jack Kirkland
    Jack Kirkland was an American playwright, producer, director and screenwriter. His greatest success was the play Tobacco Road, adapted from the Erskine Caldwell novel. His other plays included Frankie and Johnnie , Tortilla Flats , Suds in your Eye, Mr...

    , a renowned playwright who penned the Broadway adaptations of "Tobacco Road" and "Tortilla Flat."
  • Her older sister Johnna also studied at the School of American Ballet and danced with the New York City Ballet. Johnna gave up ballet in 1983, two years after breaking her foot (a career-ending injury) and the company she was then dancing with (the Los Angeles Ballet, which she co-founded) ceasing to pay the dancers's salaries. Last heard, she was still living in L.A. but now making artisan floor cloths and place mats. Although she retired rather early, videos of her dance performances are available for free to download on the internet.
  • Among her injuries throughout her career, she broke her foot, had a hairline fracture, and her feet swelled up due to lack of proper circulation from pointework.
  • Was on the May 1, 1978 cover of Time
    Time (magazine)
    Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

    .
  • Balanchine rechoreographed his version of Stravinsky's The Firebird
    The Firebird
    The Firebird is a 1910 ballet created by the composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor....

    specifically for her.

Further reading

  • Kirkland, Gelsey, and Greg Lawrence. Dancing on My Grave. Garden City, New York
    Garden City, New York
    Garden City is a village in the town of Hempstead in central Nassau County, New York, in the United States. It was founded by multi-millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart in 1869, and is located on Long Island, to the east of New York City, from mid-town Manhattan, and just south of the town of...

    : Doubleday and Company, 1986 (ISBN 0-385-19964-3).

  • Kirkland, Gelsey, and Greg Lawrence. The Shape of Love: The Story of Dancing on My Grave Continues. New York, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1990 (ISBN 0-385-24918-7).

External links





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